Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Transformation Through Faith

Faith programs in jails and prisons are one of the most important tools that we have available to use to transform people's lives. For people who have hit bottom again and again it's the simplicity of knowing that someone believes in you and is willing to provide support, guidance and give you something to believe in is a very powerful thing for people who have never had those things in their lives before.

“The Price is Right” blaring from a television set in the lobby seems oddly out of place with the security searches, metal detector, locked doors and uniformed deputies seen everywhere at the Adams County Detention Center.

Three inmates call the detention center home, at least for now. Cory Wagner knows few other places to call home. He has spent half of his 28 years here. Another inmate, Todd Sharon, thought he was away from the drugs when he was arrested for previous drug warrants and drew a 90-day sentence. Stephanie McCoy has been an off-again, on-again drug user for the past 20 years.

All three are part of a prison program called The Transformation Project, a prison ministry that started in 2005.

All three say it’s helping.........


Stay Of Execution for Alabama Prisoner

Four months without an execution in this country....

ATMORE, Ala. (AP) -- A murderer who would have become the nation's first executed inmate in months won a reprieve Thursday from the U.S. Supreme Court a little more than an hour before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

James Harvey Callahan, set to die at 6 p.m. CST, was granted a stay, Holman prison warden Grantt Culliver told officers on death row. The Supreme Court's brief order did not detail why it granted the stay.

It would have been the nation's first execution since September, when the high court agreed to consider whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. The inmate's attorney had asked the high court to halt the execution after a federal appeals court lifted a stay granted by a Montgomery judge.

Rocky Mountain News

Westword - Portrait Of Jeny

A wonderful story in Westword about how a family can come back from the brink of destruction with some help and support that can develop from a collaboration of systems and community. It's a long story, but definitely worth the read.

My parents were drug addicts. I wasn't sure what drug, though; after all, I was only eight. My Dad was always in and out of jail. My Mom and Dad always argued, over anything. Sad part was that my Dad was abusive to my Mom. That's the part that hurt the most. My older brother and my sister and I used to cry and hope that one day it would all stop. Even though my brother didn't live with us because my Mom was too young to support all of us, he lived with my Grandma right in front of our house, so he was always with us. We all grew close because we were all hurt and knew we had to stick together. Until one day when my Dad had just gotten out of jail, and the cycle of drugs, arguing and abuse went on. My new brother was only a few months old in the year 2000, when my Mom decided that she wanted a better life for us. So late at night we packed and left on a Greyhound bus to Colorado.

Jenifer Martinez didn't know what Colorado was, but she knew that her mother was right when she said they had to get away from California. Jeny's mother, Rosy, asked her to keep it a secret from her little sister, Carmen, who would have told their dad.


Breaking the School To Prison Pipeline

Darius was only nine when he was locked up. For two months, he languished in a juvenile facility -- alone, frightened. He missed his 10th birthday party. He missed Thanksgiving. He missed his stepfather's funeral.

His offense: He had threatened a teacher with a plastic utensil.

Unfortunately, Darius's early introduction to the juvenile justice system is not that uncommon.

Across America, countless school children -- particularly impoverished children of color -- are being pushed out of schools and into juvenile lock-ups for minor misconduct that in an earlier era would have warranted counseling or a trip to the principal's office, rather than a court appearance.

The problem is particularly acute in the Deep South, where one in four African-Americans lives in poverty.

The children and teens most at risk of entering this "school-to-prison pipeline" are those who, like Darius, have emotional troubles, educational disabilities or other mental health needs.

But rather than receiving the help they need in school, these vulnerable youths are being swept into a cold, uncaring maze of lawyers, courts, judges and detention facilities, where they are groomed for a brutal life in adult prisons.


US Prisoners - Does Crime Run In The Family?

Thanks to Mike at Corr Sentencing for this interesting article about how multigenerational crime may be even more prevalent than we imagined.

ANGOLA, La. — The fates of the three Caston brothers may well have been fixed at their births.

Obsessed with the lore of the outlaw James Gang, James "Tokie" Caston decided that his first two boys would bear the names of his heroes: Jesse and Frank James. By the time the third son, Sonny, arrived in 1967, the boys' futures were clear. At an early age, Frank Caston recalls, most people in tiny Lake Providence, La., referred to the brothers not as the Castons, but as the "James Gang."

"To be named after the worst outlaw in the country, I think you put a stamp on a person," says Jesse James Caston, 42, who was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list in 2000. "We never had a chance."

Their names were symbolic of a troubled upbringing that Jesse and Frank Caston say was marked by abuse and neglect. Today, all three brothers are convicted killers serving life sentences at Louisiana's state prison.

Their story is extraordinary but emblematic of what social scientists and law enforcement officials see as an increasingly complex and persistent problem: people who become criminals in part because of the influence of family members.

Nearly half of the 2 million inmates in state prisons across the USA — 48% — say they have relatives who also have been incarcerated, according to a Justice Department report in 2004, the most recent comprehensive survey of state prison populations.

The portion of those reporting the detention of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, spouses and children has kept pace with the national prison population as it has increased during the past decade. In 1997, 48% of state prisoners also reported that family members had been to prison, according to a Justice Department analysis for USA TODAY based on previous inmate surveys

Subconscious Triggers Create Cravings

This is a bit of a no-brainer for those who have been involved with people who are suffering from addictions. But now researchers can prove that it's often the subtle unnoticed things that cause people to deter from their convictions to stay clean.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2008) — Using a brain imaging technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists have discovered that cocaine-related images trigger the emotional centers of the brains of patients addicted to drugs -- even when the subjects are unaware they've seen anything.

Science Daily

Record Sealing Bill HB 1082 - Laid Over For A Vote

The House Judiciary Committee took testimony yesterday in support and opposition of the record sealing bill (HB 1082). The bill has now been laid over for a vote and we will keep you updated on its' progress.

HB 1046 passed through the House and is going to the floor. This bill would require institutions to apply for benefits for people with a mental illness 120 days before they are released.

HB 1119 passed to committee as a whole. Rep. Marshall's bill will mandate that the new Criminal Justice Commission take to task the issue of racial disparity within the justice system in Colorado.

Review Of Judges Intensifies

The Colorado Supreme Court office investigating the prosecutors-turned-judges in the now-dismissed 1999 Timothy Masters murder conviction has opened a broad review and plans to interview dozens of witnesses starting with Masters' defense lawyers.

The Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation will interview David Wymore today and Erik Fischer on Friday as it investigates whether the two prosecutors in the 1999 Masters case, Jolene Blair and Terry Gilmore, violated ethics rules or had conflicts of interest. Masters was freed last week after DNA evidence pointed to a new suspect and suggested Masters was not the killer.

Fischer was one of Masters' original defense attorneys, and Wymore was part of the legal team that won Masters' freedom last week after nearly nine years in prison.

"It's my goal to have all the significant interviews done as quickly as possible. There are too many people hanging here to not do this very quickly," said John Gleason, OAR director.

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck is conducting an independent investigation into whether the lead police investigator during Masters' trial, Jim Broderick, lied on the stand about the extent of his involvement in the case and illegally recorded a conversation between Masters and his father in 1987. Gilmore and Blair, who were appointed as judges after Masters was convicted, have repeatedly declined to comment.
The Coloradoan

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Supreme Court Probing Masters Prosecutors

There was also a mention that the Attorney General's office has been appointed by the Governor to continue with the murder case here...Rocky Mountain News

The Denver Post

A Colorado Supreme Court office is investigating whether two former Larimer County prosecutors engaged in ethical misconduct in building the 1999 murder case against Tim Masters, according to sources involved in the inquiry.

The Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Regulation is examining issues ranging from the withholding of evidence to potential conflicts of interest involving Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, who prosecuted for the slaying of Peggy Hettrick. Both are now district judges in Larimer County.

The Supreme Court office moved to investigate the case on its own accord, without receiving a complaint, sources said. If probable cause of a violation is found against either or both of the former prosecutors, a panel headed by the Supreme Court's presiding disciplinary judge would ultimately determine whether Gilmore and Blair violated professional standards.....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Illegal Globally - Bail For Profit Still In US

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Wayne Spath is a bail bondsman, which means he is an insurance salesman, a social worker, a lightly regulated law enforcement agent, a real estate appraiser — and a for-profit wing of the American justice system.
What he does, which is posting bail for people accused of crimes in exchange for a fee, is all but unknown in the rest of the world. In England, Canada and other countries, agreeing to pay a defendant’s bond in exchange for money is a crime akin to witness tampering or bribing a juror — a form of obstruction of justice.
Mr. Spath, who is burly, gregarious and intense, owns Brandy Bail Bonds, and he sees his clients in a pleasant and sterile office building just down the street from the courthouse here. But for the handcuffs on the sign out front, it could be a dentist’s office.
“I’ve got to run, but I’ll never leave you in jail,” Mr. Spath said, greeting a frequent customer in his reception area one morning a couple of weeks ago. He turned to a second man and said, “Now, don’t you miss court on me.”


DNA Releases Man After 25 Years

How do we give people back their lives? Especially when they were just children....

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — A man who spent more than two decades in prison for the slaying of an 89-year-old woman walked into the Vigo County Courthouse shackled to three other prisoners and walked out a free man after a judge agreed with prosecutors that DNA evidence exonerated him.
Vigo Superior Court Judge Michael Lewis ordered the release of David L. Scott on Monday during a brief hearing.
“Mr. Scott, you’re free to go,” Lewis said. Scott nodded his head as the judge ordered his release.

Scott and his relatives did not make public comments and avoided reporters after leaving the courtroom.

Scott, 39, had been serving a 50-year prison sentence for the 1984 murder of Loretta Keith, who was bludgeoned to death in her bed with a hydraulic jack. Authorities said that DNA testing not available in 1984 — including analysis of blood found on a nylon stocking at Keith’s home — cleared Scott.

Prosecutors said the DNA test results showed that Kevin Mark Weeks, 44, of LaGrange, Ky., was the person who killed Keith. Weeks was arrested Friday, and was still being held in the Shelby County, Ky., jail on Monday. Jail officials said they did not know whether Weeks had an attorney.

“This all happened so fast,” said Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt, who filed a joint petition with Scott for his release. “The number one priority was to get Weeks in custody, then to get Scott released. Now the investigation will continue.”
The Indy Star

Pot Vote May Get Backing

The mayor's panel on marijuana policy might consider recommending that the Denver city attorney halt most prosecutions of people who possess less than an ounce of pot.

The idea was floated Monday by one of Mayor John Hickenlooper's panelists, attorney Frank Moya. He said the panel would fulfill its job to ensure last year's marijuana ordinance is implemented to the "greatest extent possible" as required by the initiative.

More than 57 percent of Denver voters approved Initiative 100, an ordinance making private adult marijuana possession of less than an ounce the city's lowest law enforcement priority. As part of the initiative the mayor was required to appoint an 11-member Marijuana Policy Review Panel, which met for the first time Monday.

"Absent compelling reasons placed on record in open court, the Denver city attorney will not seek convictions in city prosecutions for petty offenses of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana," Moya said of his proposed recommendation.

Philip A. Cherner, another panel member and attorney, said he liked Moya's idea, which the entire panel may consider voting on at its next meeting. Cherner said the panel would simply be adhering to the wishes of Denver voters.

"Politicians and law enforcement need to catch up to the public," said Cherner, who favored last year's initiative.......

Rocky Mountain News

House Committee Calendar


Wednesday, January 30

Upon recess (Estimated 9:30 a.m.)
Judiciary Room 0112
HB 1104 Marostica --Traffic Rights-of-way Violations
HB 1046 Stafford --Offenders Apply For Public Benefits
HB 1106 Carroll T. --Higher Education Police Officers
HB 1112 Kerr A. --Victim & Law Enforcement Fund
HB 1119 Marshall --Review Studies Of Disparity Crim Justice

1:30 p.m.
Judiciary Room 0112
HB 1082 Ferrandino --Sealing Criminal Justice Records
HB 1130 Garza-Hicks --Interception Of Communications Extensn
HB 1117 Merrifield --Juvenile Restorative Justice Programs
HB 1132 Stafford --Youthful Offender System Treatment

Tuesday, February 5

Upon recess
Joint House & Senate Judiciary Committee Room 0112
--Briefing by the Judicial Branch

Wednesday, February 6

Upon recess
Judiciary Room 0112
HB 1066 Gardner C. -Deadly Force Against Intruders
HB 1011 Green -Sex Abuse Of Child Civil Actions
HB 1156 Casso- -Changes Juvenile Parole
HB 1176 Labuda -Custody Orders Military Deployment
HB 1188 Swalm -Sex Offender Registration Email
HB 1178 Carroll M. -Spam Reduction Act Of 2008

1:30 p.m.
Judiciary Room 0112
HB 1115 Liston --Retaliation Against A Judge
HB 1153 Roberts --Probate Code Fiduciary Oversight
HB 1148 Witwer and Levy --Adverse Possession
HB 1022 Carroll T. --Escape From Corrections
HB 1086 Stephens --Fee On Hotel In-room M

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Shelter Is Built Green To Heal Inside and Out

I just really love this story...

OAKLAND, Calif. — Although he will not be moving from the dilapidated homeless shelter here for another week, Paul McClendon, 55, has his oversized baby-blue garbage bags packed. Sitting on his bed in a winter jacket, he talked Thursday about the new, so-called green shelter with the central heating that he will be moving into.

For a man who has lived on the streets, the prospect of the new facility was hard to fathom.

“It’s going to be one beautiful place,” Mr. McClendon said, smiling. “It has respect for the environment, global warming and saving trees.”

The facility, Crossroads, which will accommodate 125 residents, may be the only “green” homeless shelter built from the ground up. It has a solar-paneled roof, hydronic heating, artful but practical ceiling fans, nontoxic paint, windows that can be opened to let in fresh air, and desks and bureaus made from pressed wheat.

It will be a big change for residents, who are used to the old shelter with ratty couches, small and inadequate space heaters, floors and walls pocked and blackened with dirt, broken lighting, electrical cords snaking along floors and a leaky ceiling.


Corrections Sentencing - Arbitrary Justice

Mike has a great post up on Corrections Sentencing that points to the alarming lack of coverage that is available about prosecutors. Here's an excerpt....

I taught the basic American government freshman survey course for 17 years, did all the usual topics you find in the textbooks, espoused wisely on the intricacies that I could add from personal experience as a former budget analyst, practicing school board member, campaign consultant. Yes, indeed, everything a student could ever want in learning about their government.

Never talked about prosecutors.

The most powerful people in our government, people who can threaten more President’s futures than anyone else on the planet, people who, if they target you, can do more harm to you and your family than any other government official, pound for pound. Never mentioned them. Which tells you basically everything you need to know about poli sci and US gov’t education in this country, but that’s a different topic for a different blog......

Corrections Sentencing

Officers Arrest Put Spotlight on Police Use Of Informants

CI's are probably the most dangerous people. They are doing the job for purely selfish reasons. How many have been put behind bars because informants have lied to save their own skin? 15 people were released from prison recently because the informant in those cases lied.

It is sometimes said that snitches are the lifeblood of police work. The question is: Are they also a poison?

Formally known as C.I.’s, for confidential informants, they are a detective’s best friend. They act as eyes and ears. They serve as secret tipsters. They take the police, by proxy, to the dangerous and privileged places where badges cannot go.

At the same time, they present problems of administration — and sometimes of temptation — to those who uphold the law. Petty crime is often tolerated in exchange for information. Detectives can be duped by an informant’s agenda. While cases of corruption are rare, it is fairly common to have more “give” in this delicate give-and-take.

The issue of confidential informants was thrust into the spotlight last week by news that four narcotics officers in Brooklyn had been arrested, in a case that involves accusations of paying informants with drugs seized from dealers the informants had pointed them to.

The officers are not suspected of making any illegal profit, and one law enforcement official has said police officers’ trading of drugs for information in the pursuit of arrests could be described as “noble-cause corruption.” The practice would, however, shatter police policy, break the law and, in the view of police commanders and prosecutors, erode the integrity of officers.

The scandal has led the Brooklyn district attorney’s office to seek the dismissal of about 150 drug cases, with hundreds more under review. Besides the arrests — of a sergeant, a detective and two officers in the Brooklyn South narcotics bureau — six additional officers were suspended and several others were placed on modified or desk duty, barred from doing enforcement work. Four supervisors were transferred and a new commander was assigned to the Police Department’s Narcotics Division.

Confidential sources are generally recruited and managed in secret, and their numbers are hard to determine in large police departments like New York’s.


Police Involvement In Reentry A Plus - Seattle

...............In many ways, police involvement in re-entry is a no-brainer. The primary role of police is to maintain the peace and make the environment safe for all. While not every released prisoner commits new crimes, those who do have a direct impact on public safety, stoking citizens' fears of victimization and reducing the public's confidence in both police and community corrections. Who better to work with former prisoners than the police, who are already dealing with them on a daily basis?

When police work expands to encompass both the surveillance and support of returning prisoners, the possibilities for effective crime control multiply. Police can identify the positive and negative influences associated with the people, property, and places in returning prisoners' communities. They are likely to know which local businesses are willing to hire ex-prisoners and which religious institutions provide moral and tangible support.

Beat officers are particularly well positioned to support successful prisoner re-entry. Aware of gang networks, drug markets, and the associates of former prisoners, they can let community supervision partners know when former prisoners may be heading down the wrong path. These exchanges signal that former prisoners are being watched but can also send the message that "we want to see you succeed."................

The Seattle PI

Parents Imprisoned By Grief

The horror of prison is nothing compared to what happens within when it comes to your children. It is the most mind numbing and heart stopping of any form of helplessness when you know that your children are in danger and you can't do anything to save them.

Ashley Lindenberger's fear for her two kids was rooted in her own childhood experience of being raised by foster parents in 18 homes.

"Some of them were abusive, and some of them just didn't care," Lindenberger said recently in the visitors room of the Denver Women's Correctional Facility.

So when she was sent to the Buena Vista Boot Camp for a methamphetamine conviction last spring and her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Alize Vick, and infant son, Anthoni Vick, went to a Colorado Springs foster home, she was tormented by guilt and constant anxiety.

Within months, her worst fears were realized: Alize died from a severe head injury, and her child's foster mother was charged with murder.

The Denver Post

Sunday, January 27, 2008

In Memoriam - Judge Eleanor Shockett

Judge Shockett passed away on January 12. I listened to her speak at the DPA conference in New Orleans in Dec. She was a member of LEAP and wonderful speaker. This is from the LEAP website:

I am very sad to have to report that Judge Eleanor Levingston Schockett died Saturday, January 12, 2008, at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.

Eleanor was a close friend, a colleague, and an unbeatable advocate for sensible thinking in a world that is desperately in need of such people.

I had the pleasure of spending several weeks in the company of Judge Schockett over the last four years. Eleanor joined LEAP by email, July 2, 2003 saying:

"I retired from the circuit bench Dec.31, 2002. (I served two six-year terms). I was referred to this organization by John Chase of the November organization. My interest in this subject dates back to 1958 when I wrote my senior paper at Tulane Law School on the administration of the drug laws in the United States. Matters have only gotten worse in the intervening years as I observed when in the Criminal Division of the Court. The main reason I did not take senior judge status is that I wanted to have my civil rights back, so I could speak out on political as well as judicial issues. I am in full agreement with your mission statement and would like to do whatever I can to contribute to a more responsible drug policy."

It wasn't very long before we realized we must recruit her as a member of the LEAP Board of Directors. Eleanor sat through what seemed at the time to be endless hours of board meetings as we shaped our organization. Her advice was always clear and concise. On many occasions she saved us from making major mistakes.

In those four years, Eleanor never turned down a venue arranged to present LEAP's goal to end drug prohibition. She was absolutely tireless. I had the honor of traveling with Eleanor and retired Detective Chief Superintendent of Scotland Yard, Eddie Ellison, to New Zealand. In two-weeks we made 90 presentations in that country. Then we were off to a week at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

My wife accompanied us on that trip and became another of Eleanor's many friends. Eleanor visited us at our home in Medford, Massachusetts many times.

Eleanor fought cancer for the last year, but after a regime of chemotherapy thought she had beaten it. She never complained about her own plight. She told me how ridiculous it was that doctors in North Carolina would charge her $105 per pill to alleviate the nausea caused by her chemo treatment when a simple marijuana cigarette would have accomplished the same thing -- without the side effects. She said that just made her more determined to work to end prohibition of all drugs.

Judge Schockett traveled to New Orleans last December to join 1,200 of us at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference. She spoke on one of the panels and helped us plan our strategy for our continued struggle.


Prison Closure Plans Stir Anxiety In Rural Towns That Depend On Them

The New York Times

In More Trials Combat Stress Is Taking The Stand

In a war that rivals all others we will bring home veterans who are scarred and distraught. The world is more familiar now with what Post Traumatic Stress can do to people. People leaving prison are often under the same personal fatigue. In the world of corrections and the aftermath of serving time we should be looking at treatments that focus on the individual and their trauma's. What led them to the place that created addictions or illegal behavior. Putting band-aids on symptoms will not cure anything it only covers up the true ills.

What about looking at people whose lives are combat trauma and whether they deserve special treatment at sentencing?

When it came time to sentence James Allen Gregg for his conviction on murder charges, the judge in South Dakota took a moment to reflect on the defendant as an Iraq combat veteran who suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This is a terrible case, as all here have observed,” said Judge Charles B. Kornmann of United States District Court. “Obviously not all the casualties coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan come home in body bags.”

Judge Kornmann noted that Mr. Gregg, a fresh-faced young man who grew up on a cattle ranch, led “an exemplary life until that day, that terrible morning.” With no criminal record or psychiatric history, Mr. Gregg had started unraveling in Iraq, growing disillusioned with the war and volunteering for dangerous missions in the hope of getting killed, he testified.

Nonetheless, the judge found that Mr. Gregg’s combat trauma had not rendered him incapable of comprehending his actions when he shot an acquaintance in the back, fled the scene, and then pointed the gun at himself as a SWAT team approached — the helmeted officers “low crawling,” Mr. Gregg testified, and looking “like my own soldiers turning on me.”

When combat veterans like Mr. Gregg stand accused of killings and other offenses on their return from Iraq and Afghanistan, prosecutors, judges and juries are increasingly prodded to assess the role of combat trauma in their crimes and whether they deserve special treatment because of it.


Teens Talk About Gangs on the Western Slope

I know it's hard to believe that there are gangs in Grand Junction, but just like any smaller town in Colorado they are made up of kids who get bored. It's often a class issue more than anything else and in the spirit of prevention is one of the things that should be given a deeper look.

Draw the letter Y over Grand Junction, and you’ll find the territories of three homegrown gangs.

To the south, up to 100 people identify with the OM or Orchard Mesa gang, a loosely knit group of locals involved in selling and dealing drugs. Head west before reaching the base of Colorado National Monument and about 35 people claim allegiance to Riverside. Near the Grand Junction core, dozens more, mainly teens from 13 to 17 with the majority attending Grand Junction High School, belong to a gang called HP or Hawthorne Park, named after the downtown park sandwiched between Fourth and Fifth streets.

These estimates provided by a sampling of about 10 youths serving sentences in the Grand Mesa Youth Services Center — a detention center an school for youths who run into trouble with the law — said the separate gangs are responsible mostly for running drugs, and part of their draw is “having something to do.”

According to one 17-year-old white boy, who has the letters OM tattooed on the inside up his upper arm, the Orchard Mesa gang was formed about 20 years ago and is made up of local residents ranging in age from teens to their 30s.

“We might do stuff, but it’s not real gang mentality,” he said. “It’s kind of fake; it’s more like (we’re) posses. We don’t go for other gangs, just slinging dope to other people.”

“The more money, the more power,” said the boy, who had been in and out of the detention facility for three years on charges of selling drugs after the home where he was living was raided by police. “This is Grand Junction, you’re either smoking meth or you’re selling it.” ......

Grand Junction Sentinel

How Do We Make Tim Whole

This article was printed in the Post this morning the italics are mine:

Brian Lackey sat in a courtroom Tuesday holding his 2-year-old on his lap. Father and son watched "The Incredibles" on Lackey's iPhone as they waited to see Tim Masters walk free.

A Fort Collins construction manager, Lackey hadn't spoken with his Navy buddy in the 14 years since leaving the service.

His is the life Masters could have built but for the 9½ years he lost to a murder he probably didn't commit.

Kids and high-tech gizmos may yet come for Masters, 36.

But how, if ever, can a man be made whole after essentially stepping off the planet for a decade?

"He was robbed of his home, his car, his money, his time," Lackey said of his old bunkmate. "And I keep thinking, 'How do you make it right?' "......

......."An apology would go a long way," said Tom Congdon, a retired Denver oilman who has championed Masters' release.

Congdon knows how it feels to be accused of murder. A lawyer defending his cousin against charges of murdering Congdon's aunt in 1977 pointed to Congdon as the killer. Police didn't pursue him as a suspect. But the panic gave him a "24-hour familiarity with how twisted things got for Tim."

"There has to be compensation for everything he has gone through," Congdon said.

Twenty-two states have laws to compensate the wrongly convicted. Colorado isn't one of them. Instead, it shoos them off like it does most inmates — with a $100 cash card.

"They shove him out the door in his underwear," said one of Masters' lawyers, David Wymore.

Tennessee offers those exonerated a maximum of $1 million, depending on lost wages and "mental suffering." New Hampshire caps awards at $20,000, no matter how long a prisoner was locked up. Other states pay for college tuition or counseling.

To the family that stood by Masters all these years, accountability also needs to figure into the equation. Masters' late father, Clyde, had 15 brothers and sisters.

The clan knows well the details of his case. On errands, they bumped into the Fort Collins detective who dogged Masters as a suspect. They took their lumps when his office lost evidence from the case. And they stayed silent when he became head of the police department's internal- affairs division They all know him by name.

"Jim Broderick," said cousin Mark Lamb of Arvada. "And his head should roll."

Making Masters whole, his people say, means far more than freeing him, cutting a check or apologizing. It means making accountable those who — in the name of the state their family has called home for six generations — locked up one of their own and nearly threw away the key

The Denver Post

Tim Masters Gets His Life Back

The one thing that comes to mind is what would the recidivism rate be if communities embraced people who are being released from prison like Tim has been embraced. I know the scenario is different considering the circumstances of Tim's imprisonment. It still makes you wonder.

Tim Masters strolled into the Greeley Driver Licensing Test Center Friday morning, inviting smiles from the crowd and becoming perhaps the first citizen in Colorado history to avoid taking a number.

Employees and customers cleared a path for him to a service window. Within minutes, he breezed through a written exam but was frustrated that he missed three questions.

"One was, 'What do you do when an animal crosses in front of your vehicle?' " he said. "I answered, 'Stop.' The correct answer was to use caution. But shouldn't you stop for an animal?"

On this day, Masters passed two big tests on his way to recapturing his life. He overcame the murder charges dangling over him for a decade when the Larimer County DA moved to dismiss them. And he earned the right to slip behind the wheel again, true freedom for the former aircraft mechanic and self-described gearhead...... The Denver Post

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rising Construction Costs Deal Blow To Local Budgets

This is one of the most important things to remember when we start talking about spending money to build new prisons and jails. Alternatives are cheaper and certainly more timely, but the long term cost benefit is more than worth the investment.

SEATTLE — State and local governments in many parts of the country are struggling to pay for roads, bridges and other building projects because of rising construction costs, adding another burden to budgets already stressed by the troubled housing market.

The problems have come as many governments pursue ambitious projects to improve roads and airports, build schools and upgrade long-neglected water and sewer systems. Many of the projects were conceived when money from property, sales and income taxes was steady and interest rates low, but officials say the ground has shifted beneath their feet.

“Everybody’s scared,” said Uche Udemezue, director of engineering and transportation for San Leandro, Calif., which will soon put out a request for construction bids on a retiree center and a parking garage. “You don’t know what you’re going to find when you go out to bid.”

The impact has been felt in different regions at different times, and not every project has been high-profile. In Oregon, high costs have forced the State Department of Transportation to slow the rate at which it upgrades roads and bridges. In Seattle, school building projects were put on a fast track this fall because of fears of cost overruns.

The list of culprits for the increases often depends on the rate of growth and construction in a particular region, with labor costs playing a role along with the rising prices of materials like steel and concrete, and asphalt, fuel and other petroleum-based products.


GEO Prison Riot - Indiana

An Indiana state prison that was the site of a riot last year involving inmates from Arizona was locked down after three guards were treated for minor injuries in a fight with prisoners.
At least some of the inmates involved in the fight were from Arizona, said Nolberto Machiche, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections. The state sends inmates to the Indiana prison as part of a deal between the states.
Four to six inmates at the New Castle Correctional Facility fought with the guards during an outdoor exercise period Wednesday after an inmate left the recreation area, said Trina Randall, a spokeswoman for the GEO Group, the private company that is contracted to run the facility.

Indianapolis star

One Officer Fired For Misconduct. - One Suspended

One Denver police officer has been fired and another suspended amid allegations of misconduct, a police spokesman and public safety manager both said Friday night.

Denver Police Officer Randall Hurst was fired and Officer Michael Jimenez has been suspended, said police spokesman John White.

The circumstances could not be confirmed, White said, referring queries to Mary Dulacki, manager of records for the Denver Department of Safety.

"I don't know anything about the details and what the allegations are at this point," Dulacki said.

The time of the alleged misconduct, and when Hurst was fired, is unclear, White and Dulacki said. An investigation into the conduct by Jimenez continues, they said.

A local television station reported that both officers were accused of on-duty sex in uniform. Citing anonymous "police contacts," CBS4 reported on its website that Hurst was accused of having sex with a suspected prostitute in the bathroom of an East Colfax Taco Bell.....

The Denver Post

Friday, January 25, 2008

DA Won't File Charges

Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson's office has filed a motion to dismiss murder charges against Tim Masters.

"The dismissal was based on newly discovered evidence that justifies further investigation, namely DNA test results which were not available at the time of Peggy Hettrick's murder in 1987 nor at the time of Timothy Master's original trial and conviction in 1999," according to a statement Abrahamson released this afternoon.

Masters got the news at attorney Maria Liu's office this afternoon. As a fax of Abrahamson's motion for dismissal arrived, CBS News was calling.

But while the motion gets him one step closer to being out from under a murder charge that has hovered around him for almost half his life, Masters had other things on his mind.

"It's great. I feel great," he said, smiling. "But I'm late for my driving test."

After a moment to celebrate, Masters was off to take his driving test in hopes of getting his license today.

The celebration was tempered by Abrahamson's declaration that the new DNA results, which show cells belonging to three other men on Hettrick's clothing, do not exclude Masters as a suspect.

"Contrary to news reports, the DNA testing results only suggest that there may be others, along with Timothy Masters, who should be investigated," Abrahamson said in the statement. "These test results do not provide us with enough information to completely exonerate anyone."

"That's bunk," Masters said.

Another attorney for Masters, David Wymore, was more aggravated.

"The facts exonerate Tim Masters, not Larry Abrahamson," Wymore said. "As long as a judge signs (the order of dismissal), Tim Masters knows — America knows — he is innocent."

The Denver Post

Idaho Gov Trying To Sell Private Prisons To Legislators

BOISE, Idaho -

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter Wednesday began selling a plan to lawmakers to let prison companies own and operate for-profit lockups in Idaho, arguing it's better for corporations to pay upfront costs of housing a growing inmate population than it is for the state to sell bonds for such projects, like it's done in the past.

Currently, Idaho law prevents corporations from building for-profit prisons here.

For instance, although Corrections Corporation of America (nyse: CXW - news - people ), based in Tennessee, built the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise in 2000 and now runs it, the state owns the facility.

Otter, a former businessman who touts free-market solutions, aims to let firms like Corrections Corporation of America and Florida's The GEO Group Inc. build a $250 million, 2,100-bed prison, starting as soon as possible. Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome and the other co-chairwoman of the budget-writing panel, said allowing a private company to own such a facility could leave Idaho without adequate control.

She cites an example in which Corrections Corporation of America earlier this month asked Colorado to approve a 5 percent payment hike in each of the next five years - or else it would move Colorado inmates out of one of its private prisons and bring in prisoners from California. A Colorado prison spokeswoman confirmed to the AP such a request had been made.

"We have a good relationship with Corrections Corporation of America at the Idaho Correctional Center for the simple reason that we own the facility," Bell said

Hensley countered Otter's legislation will include the appropriate "sideboards" to avoid the situation Colorado now faces.

"We have the huge benefit that we can learn from lessons of Colorado and other states," he said.

Both Corrections Corporation of America and GEO have hired lobbyists in Idaho to push for Otter's changes. In addition, the companies have given at least $40,000 in campaign contributions to Idaho lawmakers in recent elections, including at least $15,000 to Otter's 2006 gubernatorial race.

Few lawmakers have seen details of Otter's plan, but at least some are warming to it.

Forbes Magazine

Police Union Lawyers Blast Discipline Plan

..... Lawyers for the union representing Denver police officers took aim Thursday night at the centerpiece of a proposed new disciplinary process, describing it as an attempt to fix a system that isn't broken.

They also challenged Manager of Safety Al LaCabe's proposal to amend the city's civil service rules to a system of applying discipline via a "matrix" that generally seeks to match violations of department policy with a range of punishments.

Marc Colin, a lawyer for the Police Protective Association, credited LaCabe with listening to the union's concerns during the two years that the new disciplinary proposal has been under review.

Rocky Mountain News

Rocky Ed - Take Them Off The Case

Peggy Hettrick's killer has enjoyed 21 years of freedom since that February night when he - and possibly an accomplice - murdered and mutilated her, leaving her body in a field. At times he must have marveled at his good fortune, and yet he never truly realized how lucky he was.

The killer couldn't know, for example, that police and prosecutors focused from the outset on a boy living near the crime scene who had a disturbing fascination with violent imagery; that they would give short shrift to other murder theories and continue to pursue that suspect after he'd grown; that they'd team with a forensic psychologist whose arrogant confidence in his ability to identify a probable murderer would propel them into the final mistake of arresting and charging Tim Masters with the crime.

The killer would almost certainly have heard of Masters' trial, but even then he could not have appreciated the full extent of his luck. Among other things, he wouldn't realize that Masters' defense was crippled by prosecutorial misconduct - its failure to share information that might have been used on the defendant's behalf.

Rocky Mountain News

DA Set To Drop Case Against Tim Masters

Thank goodness. There is also a probe starting against the cop who built the case around Tim in the first place. He has been out of town for the past couple of weeks but Ken Buck, the DA in Greeley is getting ready to start investigations. Read the article by clicking here.
By Miles Moffeit

Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson has decided to dismiss murder charges against Tim Masters and could make an announcement as soon as today, according to sources close to his inquiry.

"They're going to move pretty quickly on dismissing it," said one source familiar with discussions. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Abrahamson's office said he was not prepared to release a decision in the case.

Experiencing his second full day of freedom Thursday, Masters remained optimistic but guarded: "We'll see when it happens."

Once the decision to scuttle charges against Masters is formally approved by a judge, Masters would become the first convict in Colorado to be exonerated by DNA evidence. During the past three days, he has ensconced himself with relatives as dozens of donations and other offers of help have flowed to him personally and through the law firm handling his case, Collins, Liu, Lyons LLP.

The Denver Post

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Commissioner Zwirm On The Criminal Justice Commission

The book that was cited was of course, "Getting On After Getting Out". We gave one to every commissioner there.

STERLING — Back in October, Logan County Commissioner Debbie Zwirn was appointed to serve on Gov. Ritter’s new Colorado Commission on Criminal Justice.

On Jan 11, Zwirn attended the justice commission’s first meeting, held in Denver. This first meeting was planned as a learning opportunity. The group will meet every month.

“When Gov. Ritter spoke, he — and all the speakers — cautioned all of us to go beyond our preconceived notions and hear what everyone had to say,” Zwirn said.

As a former legal assistant at the district attorney’s office, she found the proceedings fascinating. Zwirn noted that she heard much that was familiar that day, but many new ideas, too. The day’s speakers reminded panel members over and over that they would spend a lot of time learning, she said.

Overcrowded Prisons

Dr. Richard Kern, executive director of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Committee, described how Virginia has done away with its parole system. Their prisons had been loaded with non-violent offenders, Kern noted.

To deal with this, a goal was set to reduce the number of non-violent prisoners by 25 percent between 2003 and 2006. By 2007, the number has been reduced by 49 percent, Kern said.

These people are not simply turned loose after they have been found guilty. But instead of being sentenced to prison, many are sentenced to various types of work-release programs.

“Here in Colorado, the prison population is increasing at the same time that crime is decreasing,” Zwirn said.....


Since recidivism is a problem of the criminal justice system across the county, ways to provide better assistance for people just getting out of prison were also discussed. Recidivism is about 50 percent for those prisoners who do not receive vocational training.

“They need to learn how to live outside of prison,” Zwirn said, “not just handed a small amount of cash and a bus ticket.”

She is reading her copy of a book panel members received, titled “How to Survive Outside of Prison.” The book is now being used in some places as part of an education program for prisoners who will be getting out soon.

Zwirn said that in addition to the 26 panel members and several speakers at this meeting, there were about 50 or 60 people in the audience. These are open public meetings and anyone is welcome, she said.

Journal Advocate

Hell's Angels Get City Apology

Some stories you just got to love...

For the second time in five years, Denver police apologized to the Hells Angels motorcycle club for possibly violating the group's Constitutional rights.

In a settlement released Thursday, attorney David Lane said Denver and Mountain View police agreed to pay a total of $14,000 to the group, and apologize for a Sept. 2, 2005 traffic stop in Mountain View.

During that stop, which the Angels lawsuit said was made without probable cause, Denver police arrived for backup and held the Hells Angels at the rifle-point for about an hour while each was searched.

In his letter, Denver Manager of Safety Al LaCabe apologizes, and wrote, "at no time did any officer or the City and County of Denver ever intend to violate your Constitutional rights.

"We apologize if this may have inadvertently occurred."

The Denver Post

Justice Policy Institute New Report --More Treatment Less Crime

Latest in a Series of Policy Briefs on Public Safety: Data shows substance abuse treatment reduces crime

Increased availability of substance abuse treatment is associated with improved public safety.

WASHINGTON - Community-based substance abuse treatment reduces crime rates and helps states reduce corrections costs, according to a new policy brief released today by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI).

The Substance Abuse Treatment and Public Safety brief found that the sooner substance abuse is treated, the bigger the long-term cost savings and increases in public safety. At a time when some have raised concerns about the release of people convicted of drug offenses from federal prison due to U.S. Sentencing Commission reforms, the research shows that substance abuse treatment helps individuals transition successfully from the criminal justice system to the community.

"This new report confirms that investing in drug and alcohol treatment is both socially responsible and fiscally prudent and should be a top public policy priority," said Maryland Delegate Bill Bronrott, chair of the House Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. "The report documents the tangible results of treatment, such as cutting crime, reclaiming lives, and making healthier families and safer communities. More investments in these lifesaving and cost-effective services are needed now to expand the benefits of treatment that this report so clearly demonstrates."

The policy brief—the last in a series that examines the impact of positive social investments on public safety—found that:

Increases in admissions to substance abuse treatment are associated with reductions in crime rates. Admissions to drug treatment increased 37.4 percent and federal spending on drug treatment increased 14.6 percent from 1995 to 2005. During the same period, violent crime fell 31.5 percent. In California, where Proposition 36 diverted thousands of people from prison and jail to treatment, violent crime fell at a rate that exceeded the national average. In Maryland, where policymakers have been working to implement various approaches to diverting prison-bound people to treatment, the counties that relied on drug treatment were more likely to achieve significant crime rate reductions than those that relied on drug imprisonment.

Increased admissions to drug treatment are associated with reduced incarceration rates. States with a higher drug treatment admission rate than the national average send, on average, 100 fewer people to prison per 100,000 in the population than states that have lower than average drug treatment admissions. California, in particular, experienced decreases in incarceration rates when jurisdictions increased the number of people sent to drug treatment.

Substance abuse treatment prior to contact with the justice system yields public safety benefits early on. Research has shown that drug treatment programs improve life outcomes for individuals and decreases the likelihood that a drug-involved person will be involved in the criminal justice system.

Substance abuse treatment helps individuals transition successfully from the criminal justice system to the community. Community-based drug treatment programs reduce the chance that a person will become involved in the criminal justice system after release from prison.

Substance abuse treatment is more cost-effective than prison or other punitive measures. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) found that community-based drug treatment is extremely beneficial in terms of cost, especially compared to prison. Every dollar spent on drug treatment in the community is estimated to return $18.52 in benefits to society in terms of reduced incarceration rates and associated crime costs to taxpayers.

"If lawmakers invest in community-based substance abuse treatment—instead of prison beds—for people living with addiction, our communities will reap tremendous benefits,” says JPI Executive Director Sheila Bedi. “Crime rates will decrease, families will remain intact and since treatment is less expensive than incarceration, state budget dollars can be redeployed to meet education, housing, infrastructure and other pressing needs. “

Go to the Justice Policy Institute website and download the PDF

Tribune Op-ed. Work Not Done On Master's Case

With Tim Masters out of jail and an open murder again on the front burner for Fort Collins police, the real work on this breathtaking story in northern Colorado is just beginning: Now is the time to demand accountability from those who allowed this travesty of justice to unfold as it has, and to undertake concrete reforms to ensure it never happens again.

It's difficult for us in Greeley to comprehend how a man can be convicted of murder when no physical evidence at the scene links the suspect to the victim.

It seems clear to us that Fort Collins Police Lt. Jim Broderick, along with Larimer County Judges Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, should face serious scrutiny for their role in this embarrassing affair.

Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the overwhelming evidence that Broderick, Gilmore and Blair conspired to hide or manipulate evidence in order to ensure a conviction against Tim Masters.

If Abrahamson doesn't have the will to initiate an investigation, it should be launched by Don Quick, the Adams County DA and special prosecutor. If he can't muster the fortitude, it will be time to call on the governor.

The concept of "justice" in this matter is an embarrassment, and these are only the most immediate measures that regional law enforcement institutions must take as they embark on the long road toward regaining even an iota of their former credibility.

Greeley Tribune

Colorado House Calendar

Second Regular Session
Sixteenth Legislative Day
Thursday, January 24, 2008
HOUR OF CONVENING -- 9:00 a.m.


HB08-1016 by Representative(s) Solano, Stafford; also Senator(s) Boyd, Windels
--Concerning juvenile justice procedures for juveniles who may benefit from mental health services.
(Amended as printed in House Journal, January 23, page 114.)

January 30

Upon recess
Room 0112 Judiciary

HB 1046 Stafford --Offenders Apply For Public Benefits
HB 1119 Marshall --Review Studies Of Disparity Crim Justice

1:30 p.m.
Room 0112 Judiciary
HB 1082 Ferrandino --Sealing Criminal Justice Records
HB 1117 Merrifield- -Juvenile Restorative Justice Programs
HB 1142 Jahn --Juvenile Competency
HB 1132 Stafford- -Youthful Offender System Treatmen

Hickenlooper Brings His Wish List To DC

I hope that his list includes helping with prisoners who are returning homeless...

ANNE C. MULKERN reporting from WASHINGTON, D.C. - Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper came to town for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and he brought his wish list for Colorado's congressional delegation.

Hickenlooper met last night with Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar and lunched today in the congressional dining room with Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat. ("We just had a salad,'' Hickenlooper said.)

He talked with Democratic Reps. Ed Perlmutter of Golden and John Salazar of Manassa, and will meet soon with Republican Sen. Wayne Allard.

His priority list included water issues, help with the homeless, programs for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and help with airport upgrades.

"There's a long list,'' Hickenlooper said.

The city is asking for $13 million to fix runways at the airport, and $500,000 to build shelters for the returning veterans at risk for becoming homeless.

The Denver Post

Come and See "Extremists" - Denver's Cop Watch

Denver's CopWatch presents:

Come see a special screening of footage from "EXTREMISTS," a documentary film
in the works about the Denver "Spy Files," by Jacob Crawford. The story of
how the Denver Police kept secret files on citizens over free speech issues and
how activists and the ACLU fought back. The documentary is unfinished - your
comments will influence the final cut.

Friday January 25

Doors open at 7:00 P.M. (We'll probably get started around 7:30 P.M.)

Crossroads Theater
2590 Washington Street (27th & Welton next door to Blackberries)
(303) 832-0929

Hosted by Denver CopWatch

Donations are encouraged and will go to support the completion and release of
the film.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Masters Out In The Free World

We sent Tim a reentry guide today, for all of you who asked. He said he had thumbed through one in Buena Vista but he said he would like to have one of his own. I was glad to send it to him.

A day after watching Tim Masters walk out of court a free man, his attorneys began working in earnest to help his transition back into the world.

"I've got to take him out and show him how to buy a sandwich," attorney David Wymore said this morning, only half joking.

Masters, 36, was freed Tuesday after 9 1/2 years behind bars. The move came after a judge tossed out his conviction in the Feb. 11, 1987, murder of Peggy Lee Hettrick, a department manager at a Fort Collins Fashion Bar store. Wymore and attorney Maria Liu had spent months laying the foundation for a new trial, unearthing documents that were never turned over to the lawyers who defended Masters at his trial.

However, his freedom was the result of scientific tests that linked skin-cell DNA found on Hettrick's clothing to a former boyfriend of hers.

Wymore and Liu began working today to help Masters as he learns how to live in the world.

They were making arrangements to assess his physical well-being, and they were also working to get him counseling.

They also were trying to keep him away from "the entertainment industry," Wymore said.

"The problem is I'm a trial lawyer," Wymore said. "I'm trying to figure this stuff out for him. I need a lot of help, but I'm not going to get it from Dr. Phil or Larry King.

"I don't need any pop psychologists."

Rocky Mountain News

New Blog - Compassion In Juvenile Sentencing

The Pendulum Foundation has a new blog "Compassion in Juvenile Sentencing". Go check it out. They also have two events coming up:


6-9 p.m.

Oriental Theater/4335 W. 44th Ave, Denver

Live music and panel discussion afterward with those featured in this powerful Frontline documentary.

$10 suggested donation.

For more info: www.argusfest.org

Feb. 13: CU-Boulder Campus 6-9 p.m.

Location: Humanities Building, Room 135

Another showing of WHEN KIDS GET LIFE, followed by a talk with Pendulum’s Executive Director. This is part of a week-long criminal justice symposium put on by University students and should be compelling.

Judge To Release 15 People Imprisoned On Informant's Lies

Thanks to Jeralyn over at Talkleft for this story about 15 people who were imprisoned based on lies that an informant told.

A federal judge decided Tuesday to free 15 men from prison because their
convictions were based on testimony of a government informant who lied on the
witness stand and framed innocent people.
Collectively, the men have served
at least 30 years behind bars. They were sentenced to a combined 86 years.
Federal public defender Dennis Terez called the release of so many people at one
time unprecedented.
Fallout from the case is expected to spread beyond the
federal courthouses in Cleveland and Akron, where the men were convicted of
dealing crack cocaine in Mansfield.

Masters Awaits Retrial Hearing

The Denver Post

Tough But Smart On Drugs - NY TIMES EDITORIAL

Restorative justice needs more support nationwide.

A dozen troubled men and women from Hempstead, N.Y., got an unusual break this month. They had been caught on tape selling drugs, and as repeat offenders faced serious prison time. But after attending a community meeting, at which they endured the scoldings of neighbors and promised a prosecutor that they would stay out of trouble and take advantage of social services like drug treatment, they walked free.
It sounds a little like the prayer-meeting scene from “Guys and Dolls,” in which a cynical bunch of gamblers grit their teeth through a public show of piety to pay off a bet. A few lawyers, police officers and a local columnist instantly accused the Nassau County district attorney, Kathleen Rice, of rewarding criminals, presumably out of a touchy-feely preference for second and third chances over tough justice.
Ms. Rice, however, is no storefront missionary. She was elected in 2005 on a promise to bring fresh ideas and new energy to an office that had been on autopilot for years. Since then she has been aggressive and innovative in tackling chronic problems like drunken driving, which she has pursued with high-profile prosecutions and a policy of refusing all plea bargains.
The Hempstead initiative was inspired by the work of David Kennedy, a criminal-justice expert who, while at Harvard, developed an acclaimed strategy for reducing violent crime in Boston that was later used in other cities. The idea is to bring multiple forces to bear, not just cops and courts. In Boston, gang leaders were summoned to “call-ins,” meetings with ministers and prosecutors, and told to obey the law or face long sentences. The resulting plunge in violent crime — one gun death in two and a half years — was called the “Boston miracle.”
Hempstead, which has struggled for years with poverty and drug crime, could use something similar. Its residents complained for years about a notorious open-air drug market to no great effect. Dealers and buyers would be arrested, but sent through the wash-rinse-repeat cycle of justice, which was never enough to set them straight.
NY TIMES Editorial

State Of Sentencing 2007

The Sentencing Project released this report today which looks at states that took steps to review, reform and revise policies in their states. Faced with the incredible growth in prison budgets, lawmakers in 18 states took steps to make significant changes in policy in order to divert money back into education, roads and health care. For Colorado that meant to legislate a sentencing commission and a juvenile clemency board. Below is a portion of the summary and a link to the website and report.

"State criminal justice policies that continue the trend of prison expansion
are subject to increased scrutiny from policymakers," said Ryan S. King, Policy
Analyst at The Sentencing Project and author of today's report. "Large
corrections budgets divert government resources from important state budget
items like education and infrastructure. The financial burden facing public
officials has led to fresh ideas and new approaches in criminal
Today's report, The
State of Sentencing, 2007: Developments in Policy and Practice
, highlights a
number of important state criminal justice policy developments that occurred
during 2007. These include:
Nine states created oversight committees to
examine sentencing laws, prison overcrowding, indigent defense, and/or reentry
Seven states amended parole policies and enhanced reentry
Four states eased policies that treat juveniles as
Three states relaxed sexual offense laws related to consensual acts
conducted by teenagers; and
Two states reformed mandatory sentencing
Nevada and California implemented some of the most significant
criminal justice reforms in 2007. The Nevada legislature established an advisory
commission to comprehensively study sentencing policy, including the impact of
mandatory minimum sentencing on drug offenses. It repealed mandatory sentencing
enhancements for certain offenses and expanded "good time" eligibility for
people in prison and on probation. For some violations of parole and probation
supervision, the state has also reduced the prospect of readmission to prison.
In California, jail administrators were granted expanded authority to
release certain persons convicted of misdemeanor offenses early in order to
relieve overcrowding. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
implemented a program to discharge early from parole individuals deemed
low-level and unlikely to reoffend. Finally, a new law passed in 2007 is
expected to reduce the number of persons in state juvenile detention centers by
half over the next three years. Instead, juveniles will be supervised locally
where they will have increased access to community-based services.
advances highlighted in The State of Sentencing, 2007 reflect a pattern in state
criminal justice policy that emphasizes effective public safety measures that
control government expenditures. These developments continue a promising trend
of "smart on crime" initiatives. Between 2004 and 2006, 22 states enacted
sentencing reforms targeted at reducing the prison population.
Today's report
concludes with several recommendations for enhanced reforms:
· Repeal
mandatory minimum sentences;
· Implement policies to reduce parole
revocations to prison;
· Invest in reentry and oversight of the criminal
justice system; and
· Expand options to reduce the amount of time served in

Sentencing Project

2008 Legislation On The Calendar

2008 Legislative Session Bills of interest for CCJRC
Sponsors: Rep. Ferrandino (D) and Senator Bacon (D) CCJRC Position: Support (priority)
Status: House Judiciary Committee hearing 1/30/08 at 1:30pm in HCR0112

Colorado law does not allow a person with a criminal conviction to seal their record – regardless of the nature of the criminal conviction, the length of time since the conviction, or evidence of rehabilitation. Last year, a similar record sealing bill (HB 07-1107) was passed by the House and Senate but vetoed by Governor Ritter. Governor Ritter has indicated that he does not object to the bill in concept but wants to have more crimes excluded from eligibility for sealing. The Governor’s list of crimes is not currently included in the bill as introduced but will be incorporated through amendments.

Summary: This bill would allow people convicted of select crimes to petition the Court to seal a criminal record after they completed their sentence and been offense free for 10 years. Convictions for some crimes would not be eligible to be sealed including: Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses or class A or B traffic infractions, DUI/DWAI, sexual offenses, domestic violence, offense involving a pregnant women or convictions for crimes involve aggravating circumstances, high risk, or special offender sentencing enhancements. · The Court does not have to order the sealing. The Court is required to balance the privacy rights of the petitioner against the public’s right to know on a case by case basis. · For offenses committed before July 1, 2007, the District Attorney will have to agree before the Court can order the record sealed. · Law enforcement will always have access to any sealed record. · Third parties may petition the Court to unseal a record and the names of all people petitioning the court to seal a criminal record will be posted on the judicial website for 30 days. · The petitioner must have paid all of the fines, fees, costs and restitution ordered in the criminal case. The petitioner will also pay a filing fee that is sufficient to cover the cost of the proceeding.

Sponsor: Representative T. Carroll CCJRC Position: Support (priority)
Status: Hearing in House Judiciary Committee 2/6/08 at 1:30pm in HCR0112

Summary: Under current state law, a person can be convicted of “escape” if they fail to report or abscond while on ISP or in community corrections. This conviction carries a mandatory, consecutive sentence by law. This bill would only mandate that a consecutive sentence be imposed if someone is convicted of escaping from a Level III, IV, or V prison. (medium security or higher).

(3) HB 1119 - Directs the Colorado commission on criminal and juvenile justice to include in its areas of study the reduction of racial and ethnic disparity in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

House Sponsor: Representative Marshall (D) with cosponsors, Representatives Carroll M.(D), Carroll T.(D), Gardner B.(D), Jahn (D), Kerr A.(D), Levy (D), Roberts (R), and Stafford (D); Senate Sponsor: Senator Gordon (D) CCJRC Position: Support (priority)

Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Committee for hearing on 1/30 upon recess (approx 9:30am)

Summary: Directs the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to include in its areas of study the reduction of racial and ethnic disparity in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

(4) HB 1004 – Concerning The Authorization Of Law Enforcement Agencies To Work Jointly With School Districts In Enforcing Compulsory School Attendance Laws

Sponsors: Representative Todd (D) and Senator Penry (R) CCJRC Position –Oppose (Priority)

Status: Heard in House Education Committee and tabled (maybe re-assigned to Judiciary Committee)

Summary: Allows a uniformed law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe that a child is truant to take the child into temporary custody for the purpose of returning the child to school authorities. Prohibits the officer from transporting the child to a juvenile detention facility or jail if the officer takes the child into temporary custody. Requires a school district board of education to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with a municipality or other governmental entity concerning authorization of a law enforcement agency's enforcement of compulsory school attendance laws. Repeals the authorization on a specified date.


House Sponsor: Stafford (D), and Solano (D) Senate Sponsor: Windels (D), and Boyd (D) CCJRC

Position: Support (monitor) Status: Scheduled for hearing in the House Judiciary Committee 1/30, 1:30pm (HCR 0112)

Summary: For juveniles in a commitment center and certain persons confined in a facility of the department of human services who meet specified criteria, offers assistance from appropriate personnel in applying for Medicaid, children's basic health plan benefits, supplemental security income ("SSI"), or social security disability insurance ("SSDI"). Stipulates that the person shall receive such assistance at least 120 days prior to release, or sooner if possible. Requires the department of human services to provide information and training on the SSI or SSDI application process and assistance to personnel at each facility. Requires the department of health care policy and financing to provide information and training on the Medicaid application process and assistance to personnel at each facility. Mandates that the department of health care policy and financing simplify the processing of applications for Medicaid and the children's basic health plan and that the department of human services simplify the processing of applications for SSI and SSDI to allow eligible persons to receive Medicaid as a result of being eligible for SSI or SSDI upon release and thereafter.


Senate Sponsors: Windels (D), and Boyd (D) CCJRC Position: Support (monitor)

Status: Heard in Senate Judiciary on January 23, 2008

Currently, when someone on Medicaid is confined, their Medicaid benefits are terminated. This can cause very long delays in reinstating Medicaid upon release. This bill is designed to address that problem by allowing Medicaid benefits to be suspended (not terminated) upon confinement. Summary: Suspends Medicaid benefits for persons who are: · In the custody of the department of corrections or confined in a jail; Committed to or detained in a juvenile commitment facility; orCommitted to or placed in a department of human services facility pursuant to court order or certification.


House Sponsor: Stafford (D) and cosponsor Representative Solano (D) Senate Sponsor: Windels (D), and cosponsor Senator Boyd (D)
CCJRC Position: Support (monitor)

Status: Heard in Senate Judiciary on 1/23/08

Summary: Encourages counties to establish relationships, partnerships, and prerelease agreements with entities involved in providing various benefits to persons released from jail. Directs the department of human services ("state department") and the department of health care policy and financing to provide training to appropriate personnel on the process for applying for public benefits. Establishes a demonstration grant program ("demonstration program") in the state department to award grants to counties or groups of counties that design programs to assist jail inmates in accessing health care, housing, and employment benefits upon release. Directs the state department to submit a report on the demonstration program.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Click here to check out the Slide Show at the Denver Post

From the Rocky Mountain News and David Montero who recounts the scene in the courtroom during the fateful moments:

District Judge Joseph Weatherby just came back in. Asked everyone to check their cell phones and then, leaned back in his chair to check his own.

Masters just walked in, wearing a blue blazer and gold tie. He had a small smile on his face. The family began filing in, about 50 of them. They’re stacked deep – almost all the way to the court reporter.

Cameras continued to fire away at them. The judge then listened to Special Prosecutor Michael Goodbee.

“The results of the these DNA tests have been confirmed in large part by the (CBI) very recently and we feel, given this new evidence and given the impact of it, the people’s motion in this case is in the best interest justice,” he said.

After a few more words and no objections from Masters’ attorneys, the judge vacated the murder conviction and sentence.

Masters is a free man – until Feb. 5 when he has to appear in court again.

Timothy Masters addressed the media shortly after the judge's decision was announced. "I'm a little overwhelmed here, so bear with me'' he said, thanking his friends, family "who stuck with me all these years." He also thanked the media from bringing his story to light. Then, he added: "I love this suit and tie."

--John Boogert

Rocky Mountain News

DA Orders Review Of All Contested Convictions

This is something that should be done statewide, not just in Larimer County. Tim Masters, hopefully will pave the way to integrity in prosecution. They want to review for people who are still in state prison. I wonder about those who are out of prison and having difficulty in their lives because of a felony conviction. Don't they matter as well?

Every criminal conviction in Larimer County for which someone is still serving time will be reexamined, 8th Judicial District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said Monday.

He also said that in light of DNA evidence that points to someone other than Timothy Masters as a suspect in the 21-year-old murder case of Peggy Hettrick, he will "be moving as expeditiously as possible" to decide whether all charges against Masters will be dismissed.

District attorney's letter
"In light of newly discovered evidence revealed to me on Friday, January 18th, I will be moving as expeditiously as possible to make the determination of whether all charges against Timothy Masters will be dismissed.
I will also be sending a letter to all law enforcement agencies in the Eighth Judicial District requesting that they review contested convictions in this jurisdiction in which the defendants are still serving a sentence in the Department of Corrections. Any case that may benefit from results of DNA testing procedures, not available at the time of the convictions, are to be reported to my office.
In addition, my staff and I have met with Chief Harrison and his staff of the Fort Collins Police Services to discuss the flow of critical information with assurance that all information is available to our office and the defense. I will also be meeting with our other law enforcement heads to review similar discovery issues and information access.
I can assure everyone that I will continue to do whatever I can to ensure confidence in our criminal justice system."
-- Larry R. Abrahamson, 8th Judicial District Attorney
In a five-paragraph letter sent to the news media Monday afternoon, Abrahamson said he wanted to assure everyone "I will continue to do whatever I can to ensure confidence in our criminal justice system."

Questions about the system's integrity have surfaced regularly since Masters began seeking a new trial last year.

The district attorney said he would send a letter to all law enforcement agencies in Larimer and Jackson counties requesting that they review contested convictions in which the defendants are still in state prison.

"Any case that may benefit from results of DNA testing procedures not available at the time of the convictions are to be reported to my office," he said.

"Many positive changes have been made to our discovery process in the last 9 years, and we will continue to examine any practice that could potentially hamper full, complete and immediate discovery compliance," he said.

Masters has always professed his innocence.
Greeley Tribune

A Teens Crime - A Lifetime To Pay

You've likely never met Erik Jensen. And if the state of Colorado has its way, you'll never get the chance.

Erik, sent to prison at 17, is serving a life sentence for murder. But like most things in life, his story is much more complicated than his conviction might initially indicate.

On a June night in 1998, Erik walked in on a teen friend, Nathan Ybanez, who after years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of his parents, was in the process of killing his mother. Prosecutors never alleged that Erik launched the fatal blow. Instead, they maintained that he conspired with Nathan to kill her and then helped him carry out the crime. They charged him with murder based on a complicity theory.

As their proof, prosecutors offered the testimony of a third teen involved in the crime, Brett Baker. Under intense pressure from prosecutors, Brett testified in exchange for having several charges against him dropped. Even though Brett failed a lie detector test — which prosecutors required as part of the deal — they still put him on the stand. But jurors never heard about that.

Instead, they heard from Brett that Erik had confided in him that he had hit Nathan's mother over the head with a fireplace tool, a version of events adamantly denied by both Erik and Nathan. They both agree that Nathan acted alone in causing his mother's death. Prior to the killing, Erik and Brett's parents contacted authorities and social service agencies in an effort to remove Nathan from his abusive home environment. Their requests fell on deaf ears.

Erik admits that he, together with Brett, helped Nathan clean up the crime scene. Before plea negotiations between Erik's trial attorney and prosecutors broke down in the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, his parents say he was willing to plead guilty to being an accessory after the crime. He would have served between two and eight years.

Instead, the case went to trial. Based in large part on Brett's testimony, jurors convicted Erik. Under Colorado law, the court was required to sentence him to life in prison without parole.

Nearly a decade later, Erik is making the most of life behind bars. He has self-published one book, a science-fiction fantasy, and is working on more. He is a daily subscriber to Investor's Business Daily, and with the help of his devoted parents, Curt and Pat Jensen, he runs a website geared toward helping youths (teensintrouble.org).

Erik is one of 48 Colorado inmates serving life in prison after being convicted of a crime committed while still a juvenile. Nathan is another. The oldest of these inmates is now in his mid-30s. Together, they are just a small portion of the more than 1,000 people serving time as an adult in Colorado prisons for crimes committed before the age of 18.

In 2006, in response to efforts by the Jensens and others concerned about the growing insistence by district attorneys to try juveniles as adults, the Colorado legislature voted to prohibit life sentences for future juvenile offenders. Today, kids tried as adults can be sentenced to a maximum of 40 years. But Erik and the others sentenced to life before the change was made are out of luck. The new law is not retroactive.

Many of these teens were sent to prison under the state's felony murder rule, which makes any participant in a felony criminally responsible for any deaths that occur during the commission of the underlying crime — regardless of whether the participant caused them.

Originally designed to deter dangerous felonies that could result in death, the rule is problematic because it allows those who never commit murder to be sentenced as killers. In Colorado, 60 percent of the juveniles sentenced to life without parole since 1998 are there because of a felony murder conviction.

In 2007, Gov. Bill Ritter established a juvenile clemency advisory board. It was promoted as a venue for commuting the sentences of those deserving parole. But critics say Ritter — a former district attorney himself — has appointed board members that have direct case-specific conflicts of interests. The board's chairman, Jeanne Smith, served as a prosecutor in El Paso County on multiple cases that sentenced juveniles to life or led to felony murder convictions. [Ritter was given several chances to be interview for this column, but declined to do so.]

The board's critics, disappointed by its inaction thus far, are preparing for a 2008 legislative session that will see the felony murder rule and Colorado's life sentence mandates for juveniles as an important part of the legislative debate. Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, and Claire Levy, D-Boulder, have indicated they will both introduce reform legislation.

According to Mary Ellen Johnson, director of the Pendulum Foundation, a reform coalition that includes parents of victims of violent crime will also work to enforce a 2006 legislative mandate, championed by former state Rep. Lynn Hefley, R-Colorado Springs, that requires those like Erik to receive mental health services while behind bars. Johnson believes that if clemency is to ever work, juveniles must receive treatment that will adequately help them reintegrate back into society.

The Jensens and others have also begun designing a statewide ballot initiative that would encourage the rehabilitation of youth offenders. Credible polling indicates that voters of all political persuasions across the state strongly support reforms that would provide kids legitimate opportunities for a second chance at life.

Our legal system should show forgiveness to those like Erik, who, in the wrong place at the wrong time as a conflicted teen, made a horrific decision. He has paid his debt to society and after serving nearly a decade in prison, he should be allowed to come home and pick up the pieces of his life. Ritter's clemency board would serve justice by taking up his case.

In a nation like ours, we believe in giving kids second chances. Our laws, however, don't reflect this commitment. Today, the U.S. is the only Western nation that allows for children to be sentenced to life without parole.

In total, there are more than 2,300 Erik Jensens across our nation, kids who without significant changes to our laws will never see the outside of a prison again.

Opportunity knocks for Colorado's legislators. The question remains: Will they listen?

The Denver Post